If ever there was any doubt about the potential for sensationalized Canadian journalism, this past week the doubt was put to rest. The Globe and Mail demonstrated the sad state of Canadian news reporting in a story about a lesbian couple seeking a divorce was convoluted into an alleged reversal of federal policy pertaining to same sex marriage.
In past blog posts I have described the mania-induced hyperbole that goes into describing the supposed secret Harper agenda. The argument being that it is only a matter of time before the Tories force their extremely socially conservative ideologies down Canada's throat. As someone who is partial to conspiracy theories, this one isn't completely baseless.
Nonetheless, Harper explicitly stated that he would not use his majority to push any secret agenda, and so far that has been the case. The Conservatives obtained a majority by campaigning on the very issues the Canadian public and the media have taken issue with: the abolition of the long-gun registry, the omnibus crime bill, and supporting the Alberta tar sand, to name a few.
While having only taken one class in family law, and possessing a rudimentary understanding of international law, even I knew that the story reported by the Globe and Mail was all pomp with no circumstance. After all, had they bothered to speak to any lawyer -- correction, even any credible law student -- the national newspaper would have been told that the headline they were selling was quintessential political exaggeration used to sell papers and polarize the Canadian public.
A country sets its laws regarding marriage for its citizens, and if people marry within a country that they do not reside in (the couple were not from Canada), the concept of domicile then applies and their home jurisdiction is what would govern the essential validity of the marriage. In other words, whether the people had the capacity to get married or not in the first place is determined by their domicile, or the country in which they reside.
Conversely, the country where the marriage was performed oversees the formal validity of the marriage, or how the marriage was solemnized. Considering the women were from jurisdictions that do not recognize same-sex marriage (England and Florida), the essential validity of their marriage in Canada was null. As ridiculous as it may be for a country in the 21st century to refuse a person's right to marry the person whom they choose, nations are sovereign to enact their own laws.
Now, I don't blame everyday Canadians for buying into what the Globe was selling them. A reputable newspaper reports on the "reversal of federal policy" regarding same-sex marriages and then they have commentary by the lawyer involved in the case -- why would anybody question that? Especially when we have a Prime Minister and a long list of MPs who have expressed their antiquated views on what a family should constitute.
It saddens me that the current state of our politics is one where a nationally read newspaper can so grossly distort the truth in order to appeal to their own anti-Harper readership. On the other hand, there is a huge silver lining in all this, and that is how Canadians reacted to the refutation of rights. Something as imperative and integral to human rights as a couple's right to marry and be a family is not something that should be misrepresented, nor is it something that Canadians should take lightly.
The denial of gay rights is the denial of human rights, and I'm proud that so many Canadians were up in arms over the issue. It makes the point that as Canadians we stand for the equality of all people. O Canada.
Follow Supriya Dwivedi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/supriyadwivedi